red letter day


For the third day in a row I’ve emptied our post box straight into the post office recycling bin.

Evidently everyone else has done the same.

The tub of junked mail is overflowing with unctuous smiles of electoral candidates, clamouring pick me, pick me.

How many trees have given their lives so that politicians of all persuasions can inundate us with self-serving gumpf?

It’s an atrocious waste of natural resources, not to mention the time, effort and money that goes into producing material which is at best ignored and worst actually aggravates the recipient.

To my mind party political advertising and most material generated by both sitting and aspiring members at election time fits the definition of junk mail: to wit, “unsolicited advertising or promotional material received through the post”.

But try plastering your letter box with junk mail stickers and it won’t make a jot of difference.

You can complain to the Distribution Standards Board if you find something useful in your mail box like a catalogue advertising cut price turkey – but, the inanely grinning visage of any political wannabe? No!

In the case of “non-commercial material” – i.e. a listicle of the local MP’s achievements – there’s not a thing anyone can/will/could do.

The only way to stop this intrusion is for you to contact those responsible directly and even then they are not obliged to remove your name from their mailing list, the holy grail of mailing lists … the electoral roll.

For that matter why can any incumbent politician or registered political party and their lackeys use the roll to plague people who have been legally obliged to sign up to it for the sole purpose of voting, when voters themselves cannot access it for any purpose other than to verify their own enrolment or – where appropriate – object to the enrolment of another voter?

In an era of electronic correspondence, I can’t see how the printing and mailing component of MPs’ entitlements can be justified.

At the federal level MPs enjoy a $100,000 a year printing allowance, plus a communications allowance worth about $40,000 a year (the equivalent of 50 cents for every voter enrolled in the electorate) and a $1800-a-year-stamp allowance.

I haven’t been able to get a complete picture of what Victorian State MPs are entitled to by way of communicating with their constituents, but one allowance for MLAs equates to the number of voters in their electorate multiplied by $1.10.

So based on a district like Essendon with almost 40,000 people on the roll at the last election, this works out to be worth $43,000.

Now I know that politicians frequently have cause to enter into correspondence with and on behalf of constituents, but ask yourself have you ever received so much as a fridge magnet from your local MP at any time other than election time?

Some government departments – like the Department of Human Services – are now, where possible, communicating with clients through their own private MyGov electronic mail box.

At least if political candidates and parties were required, wherever possible, to email voters we could at least filter them – along with the Nigerian scammers, the bogus inheritance and lotto lures – as spam.

And, for the environment, that would be a red letter day.


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